14 February 2018
SCHEDULE NOTES! This SUNDAY evening (18 February) we are meeting at 6pm for an Owl walk at Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan. Meeting location: Indian Road Cafe that is directly across the street from Inwood HP: 600 West 218th Street @ Indian Road, New York, NY 10034. Please don't be late! More details below. And of course we have a Sunday morning 9:30am walk in Central Park...the weather is supposed to be OK.
Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from Utah and Central Park including Ferruginous Hawk, Say's Phoebe, Northern Shovelers and Great Cormorant (+ more) .
In this week's three historical notes we travel to the northern reaches of NYC for (a) the seven owl species that were found in Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) in the winter of 1953-54; on a related note (b), the same author (Paul Buckley...along with Peter Post and others) did a "big" owl night and found eight owl species in one 24 hour period (8 December 1956) from Westchester Co. through the Bronx to western Long Island. Finally (c), we head just north of the city to Dutchess County to watch Bald Eagles on the Hudson River on 24 February 1922.
Deborah Allen sends Photos
Say’s Phoebe, St. George, January 24, 2018:
Ferruginous Hawk, Iron County, January 28, 2018:
Vermillion Flycatcher, St. George, January 31, 2018:
American Coots, St. George, January 25, 2018:
Central Park, the Reservoir, Saturday February 3, 2018:
Northern Shovelers, Clockwise or counter-clockwise:
Female Peregrine Falcon:
Adult Great Cormorant:
Link to Deborah Allen photos on Agpix site:
Good! Here are the bird walks for mid-February - each $10
1. Sunday, 18 February - 9:30am - Central Park - Meet at the Boathouse
2. Sunday, 18 February - 6pm - Eastern Screech-owls of Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan); Meet at: the Indian Road Cafe just outside (across a small street!) of Inwood Hill Park: 600 West 218th Street @ Indian Road, New York, NY 10034. You can look up this cafe on the web via Google search, etc.
Use this for directions to Inwood and the meeting location:
a. How likely are we to find owls on Sunday evening, 18 February? Pretty good - I'd rate it as 75%. BUT, I cannot guarantee owls...I know Eastern Screech-owls are there - will they come in to my recorded calls as they usually do, and will they come in if we have a big group? They have on each of the last three times we visited this location...but nothing is ever a guarantee!
b. How likely are you to get parking near the meeting location (Indian Road Cafe)? Arrive by 5pm and I'd give it 90% chance of parking nearby. Remember Monday (19 Feb) is a holiday so parking will (should) be easier on Sunday nite.
c. What to bring: Warm clothes; Waterproof shoes...! I will have a powerful flashlight...and screech-owls often come in close (no need for bins), but a camera would be good. (Please no flash - my flashlight is powerful enough for digital photography - many photographers got great photos last time here (yes at night) with only the light from my color-balanced flashlight = 5100 lumens.) For Great Horned Owls - they are much larger and tend to stay further away...so bins would be good for them. Mostly bring warm clothes/waterproof shoes. Leave your flash at home (please don't make Deborah and Bob upset)...and for the trails just use a small flashlight or even the light from your I-phone/Smart Phone.
We expect to be out about 60 min to 90 min in search of owls. We want to do two several sites at Inwood for both Eastern Screech-owls and Great Horned Owls. Monday is a holiday...so Sunday night we can relax (in hopefully the somewhat milder weather that is forecast) and do a good search using my recorded calls. Again, bring warm clothes because we will be standing around motionless for 3-5 minutes at a time...and wear nice walking shoes that are more or less waterproof.
The fine print: In February, our walks every Sunday meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approximately 74th street and the East Drive on the lake; it is NOT one of the buildings on the nearby Model Boat Pond). Bathrooms are nearby and ok; they open at about 7:30am. On Saturdays we sometimes meet at the Boathouse (74th street and the East Drive) at 9:30am - but check schedule on web site and here because we often go further afield such as NYBG in the Bronx. Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= firstname.lastname@example.org). If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not, check the web site the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page as well as the "Schedule" page by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 7:30pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk!
We end all our weekend Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon - you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total - coffee is now $2.75). Our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue.
Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights) with some anecdotal notes and observations. Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:
Sunday, 11 February 2018 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - Rain! and it rained hard...no bird walk and we hope you slept late too. See you on 18 February at 9:30am.
Barn Owl in April 2016
Owls in Pelham Bay Park [Bronx] Winter 1953-1954
The winter of 1953-54 favored the New York City region with an abundance of owls, and the Pelham Bay area was no exception. Seven out of eight owls that occur regularly around the City were recorded in Pelham Bay Park proper.
This paper represents the combined field work of a group that covered this territory regularly and the records are listed according to species. They range from November 28 to April 10.
There are five groves of evergreens, mainly White Pine (Pinus strobus) or Black Spruce (Picea mariana), that are regularly checked for owls: (1) the “lower" grove on Hunter’s Island, (2) the “upper” grove on Hunter’s Island, (3) the grove inside the Split Rock Golf Course, (4) a grove near the City Line, which is here referred to as Pelham Manor, and (5) a grove behind the International Garden Club (Bartow Mansion) that is known as the Mansion grove.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba). First seen at the Lower grove on November 28 (two, G. Carleton, et al.), then almost daily, with a maximum of four on December 6, until January 29 when one was found dead, apparently of natural causes, in the Split Rock Grove. Then there was a lapse of about two and one-half weeks, until one was noted on February 16; after that there was another absence of two months, the latest record having been April 10 at the Lower Grove.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). Two individuals seen the day the roost of Long-ears was discovered (January 29) were very shy and the first to leave the grove. They were not seen after that date but numerous rabbit and pheasant carcasses suggested their presence later.
Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca). The single individual recorded here this year was a drab-plumaged adult well seen for about one and one-half hours and approached to within 20 feet on Rodman’s Neck on February 13. It flew to City Island where it headed due east.
Barred Owl (Strix varia). Found by Carleton and party on December 29 at Pelham Manor; it was seen daily for a period of one month after that date. It remained in the one grove throughout its entire stay.
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus). First seen at the Lower Grove on December 29 by Geoffrey Carleton and others. It then went unrecorded until January 29 when Vernon Bauer, Andrew Lee and the writer discovered some 22 or more roosting in the Split Rock Grove. Their numbers dwindled until March 1 when only one was seen.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus). Discovered on Rodman’s Neck (directly west of City Island) on January 16 and observed almost daily until February 13. Recorded once (January 30) roosting in a tree inside the Split Rock Grove.
Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus). Also found at Pelham Manor on December 29 by Carleton and party, it went unrecorded for almost two months until it was again found by Andrew Lee on February 25, in Pelham Manor. It was seen the last time on March 1. Pellets (containing only White-footed Mice, Peromyscus leucopus) were found on March 6 and 13.
The pellets examined and collected showed that the Barn Owls ate mostly Meadow Voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), Short-tailed Shrews (Blarina brevicauda), some rats (sp. ?), an Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquations), a Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and a Sora Rail (Porzana Carolina).
The pellets of the Long-eared contained Short-tailed Shrews, Meadow Voles and Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus). Mammal bones were identified by Vernon Bauer.
I am indebted to Dr. Dean Amadon of the American Museum of Natural History, who identified the Sora skull and to Vernon and Herman Bauer, Richard Kane, Andrew Lee, Joseph Phelan and Thomas Keating who accompanied me on all or most of my trips to this area.
Paul A. Buckley
A Big Owl Night
The night of December 8, 1956 was warm with occasional light drizzle, and so many owls were calling that we recorded in the New York City Region all the regular ones of the northeastern United States in 24 hours. All localities are in southwestern Long Island, except Grassy Sprain (Westchester Co.) and Bronx Botanical Garden (Bronx Co.)
Barn Owl. Flushed from a pine grove at Cedar Beach in the late afternoon.
Screech Owl. Birds responded to imitations at Lawrence and Bronx Botanical Garden.
Great Horned Owl. Heard at Grassy Sprain.
Snowy Owl. Seen at dusk on a snow fence at Gilgo. It was holding its wings out to the side in a drooping position.
Barred Owl. Heard at Grassy Sprain.
Long-eared Owl. Heard at Lawrence.
Short-eared Owl. Two flushed at Spring Creek in daylight on December 9.
Saw-whet Owl. One flushed from a pine grove at Cedar Beach in late afternoon; later, while trying to whistle up Screech Owls at Lawrence and Bronx Botanical Garden, we received immediate responses, but the birds upon close examination were found to be Saw-whet Owls. Their downscale whinnying seemed slightly weaker and higher than a Screech Owl’s, and ended in a grunt.
Carleton recalled having whistled a Saw-whet Owl into view a few feet away at Westport, N. Y. on October 24, 1937 which gave a similar call. We wonder how many times these calls have been mistaken for those of Screech Owls.
Paul A. Buckley, Geoffrey Carleton, Peter W. Post and Robert L. Scully
Hudson River Bald Eagles 
For over forty years, Andrew Templeton has watched the winter visits of the Bald Eagles to the Hudson River at Beacon and Newburgh, where the ferry between these cities keeps the water free from ice in the coldest days. When the days begin to soften, great fields of ice break off with the changing tides, and these the ferry cuts into small blocks and a eventually a big open space is formed where the Gulls, Mergansers and other Ducks gather and wait the breaking up of the ice. Every year that these conditions have prevailed, during the mild days of winter, a pair of Bald Eagles have come to the Hudson River and remained in the ferry pathway for several days, attracting much attention. It was some surprise to me in passing over on the ferry Friday, February 24 , to find eight Bald Eagles on the ice, six mature birds and two immature.
Crows appeared like chickens beside their hens, but later, when we had a pair of eight-power glasses on the birds, we were unable to discover that they found any food, although Mergansers were diving and splashing not far away. The eight birds were here for one day only but the pair now here have been leaving every evening before dusk for the Highlands south, flying toward Storm King Mountain. The two mature Bald Eagles are yet with us, but the gathering of eight birds on the river seems of enough importance to me to report, for it seems as if the protection of these birds was now bearing fruit.
Francis B. Robinson, Newburgh, N. Y., February 27, 1922.
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
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Vermillion Flycatcher male in St. George, Utah
Say's Phoebe male in St. George, Utah